In a post from last year titled Seventh Day of Unleavened Bread I tried to refine a timeline about the Exodus from Egypt of Israel in which I concluded that the Red Sea crossing had taken place overnight during the third night after Passover. The sea came back together, drowning the Egyptian army at about dawn the third day, signalling freedom from Egyptian oppression for Israel (Exodus 14:27-31). I also tried to find a correspondence with the events of the Passover week of Jesus’ death and resurrection. A three-day journey (with no water in sight) from the Red Sea brought the Israelites to a place called Marah because of its bitter waters. Moses is shown a piece of wood, which he throws into the water, healing its bitterness. Because of this incident I had a general notion that the remainder of the week represented Jesus’ leadership with the help of the Holy Spirit to lead us through the tough times in the Christian life.
Upon further reflection, it seems that God had something specific in mind about that locale as a worship venue even before they left Egypt. In fact, God tells Moses to tell Pharaoh to let them go on a three-day journey outside of Egypt to worship him (Exodus 3:18). This order was given while Moses was still talking to God at the burning bush!
A second thing I noticed is that not only does God heal the waters – he also enters into a covenant of healing with them (Exodus 15:25-26). This includes a test, a decree and a law. I don’t think I am pushing very hard when I call it a “covenant”. Call it what you will, but there is at least a commandment involved – marching orders of a kind. “Follow me, and I will keep you in good health!”
So I scrutinized the Gospel accounts of that fateful Passover week to see if there was any mention of a journey of roughly thee days for the disciples. Nothing came into view until I read Matthew 28:1-10. An angel tells Mary and the other women to tell the disciples to go to Galilee, where Jesus will meet them. Apparently they did not believe the women, so Jesus himself appears to them and tells them the same thing, “Go to Galilee.”
This Christianity Today article provides useful information about how far people travelled per day. Depending on where in Galilee you go (Nazareth seems to be a logical end-point, but it could easily have been along the Sea of Galilee, where the fishermen originally worked), a distance of between 60 and 95 miles could have been involved. Matthew 28:16-20 indicates that a mountain in Galilee is where he tells gives them what has come to be called the Great Commission – to preach the gospel to the world.
Now why would Jesus tell his disciples to get out of the region immediately after his resurrection? Actually, verses 11-15 give us the answer. The authorities were already accusing the disciples of stealing Jesus’ body. It was not safe to remain in the environs of Jerusalem under the threat of arrest and probable death.
The Apostle John, in what seems to be an epilogue at the end of his Gospel, tells us the story of Jesus’ appearance to his disciples on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias (as the Romans called the Sea of Galilee) in John 21. In this story he tells of the miraculous catch of fish that enables the disciples to identify him as the risen Jesus. The southern end of the Sea of Galilee is about 70 miles from Jerusalem, and may well have been within a three-day walk for experienced itinerant preachers.
He also tells of Jesus’ rehabilitation of Peter as the leading apostle. He asks Peter three times if he loves Jesus, and Peter responds in the affirmative each time. Notice that this is the same number of times that Peter had denied Jesus at his trial. The triple affirmation is intended to reverse the triple denial. Not only is there a triple affirmation, but Jesus also issues a tripled command: “Feed my sheep!”
I have already noted that Jesus seems to have issued his Great Commission while the disciples were in Galilee. So we have Jesus who tests his disciples, who heals the breach between himself and their abandonment of himself at the cross, and who gives them a command to both follow him and preach his gospel – all after a three-day journey. Whether or not these events recorded in Matthew and John took place literally on the seventh day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover,) this strikes me as a reasonable idea of what the Seventh Day of Unleavened Bread represents as fulfilled in the New Testament.